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What to Change?
Bigsby
4%
 4%  [ 1 ]
Mid Pick Up
8%
 8%  [ 2 ]
None
88%
 88%  [ 22 ]
Total Votes : 25

Author Topic:  Telecaster Upgrade??
Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 4:44 pm    
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I'm throwing this out there for opinions.

I have a gorgeous 2018 Tele. American Pro. (no MIM here).


I love it as it is: a neck and a bridge pick up. Buck Owens would buy this guitar.

I rewired my Strat with 3 Seymour Duncan single poles (SSL-1 (N), SSL-3 (B), SSL-5 (M RWRP), and that got me thinking: should I drop in a Tele middle pick up, and a Bixby tail piece, or just leave her as she sits?

I would love to hear opinions.

Edited by moderator to correct the spelling of "Bigsby".
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 5:00 pm    
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Bigsby.

Bixby was in “My Favorite Martian” in a prior millennium.
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 5:51 pm    
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I remember that. Bill Bixby played opposite Ray Walton (as the Martian).

Bill Bixby was also in "The Courtship of Eddie's Father".

Now, back on point. What say you? Very Happy
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Karl Paulsen

 

From:
Chicago
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:08 pm    
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If you've got a strat you love, and this tele is great as is, it sounds like you're set.

Don't mess with perfection.
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:13 pm    
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Classic Tele.

Don’t screw with it.
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Benjamin Davidson

 

Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:16 pm    
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I like those American Pro Tele's, if anything there is always the pickup change.

If you went to "Middle Pickup", you then get into which pickup? Staying single coil, and you're looking at something from a Strat line-up. And then, there is how it will work with the other two pickups you already enjoy?

Second question that arises with adding the middle pickup, how is it getting wired up?
If you put in a 5-way switch, and you lose the bridge-neck combination (without getting creative - which there is a work-around for). But, its a switching configuration that you'd be familiar with.
If you go with a "Brent Mason"-style middle blend volume pot, that has its own trade offs. And you never have a pure middle pickup tone.

Huge array of options adding a middle pickup to a telecaster, and so many decisions to make.

As to the Bigsby? Do you need that Tele to have that vibrato? Now, unless you modify the stock bridge and just add the tailpiece, you will fundamentally change the tone of that guitar. I don't care for the Bigsby kit bridges.
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:26 pm    
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I'm so busted. Ken nailed me with the "Bixby" malaprop. Indeed it is Bigsby.

Thanks Ken, and my apologize.
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John De Maille


From:
On a Mountain in Upstate Halcottsville, N.Y.
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:31 pm    
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Here's my 68'. Mighty Mite neck pickup, brass bridge and brass nut. Plus..... a Parsons/White B string bender. I played it for many years. It's real twangy!
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:41 pm    
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That's a beauty! AND a CW B bender.

You win Very Happy
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 12 Nov 2021 6:45 pm    
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Quote:
Don't mess with perfection.


Well, that didn't take long. (Probably saved me a grand in the long run).

Thanks guys.
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ajm

 

From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 8:57 am    
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I 1000000% agree with the "no mods" crowd, AT LEAST when it comes to the mods that you were thinking.

First off, not trying to be the vintage police here, but you will impact the resale value/appeal, almost assuredly in a negative way.

I have never seen the point of a Bigsby. If you want/need a trem guitar, get a Strat (for starters). And you already have a Strat, so.......

Middle pickup: You may need to rout the guitar out for that. Plus, you already have a Strat, so.......

If you absolutely MUST tinker and make mods to it, I would make them 100% reversible. Like:
- Bridge saddles.
- Tuners. I don't really see the point in this one, though. The guitar doesn't have a trem, so if it won't stay in tune you have problems elsewhere.
- Simple electronics like pots and caps (Once again, is there a point?).
- A new neck like a Warmoth. For the back shape, radius, or whatever else you might want to play with. Probably not necessary.

My #1 suggestion, that I personally would look at: Noiseless pickups. Assuming that it didn't come with them already. To get rid of that BZZZZZZ that is often in the background, which can really spoil the mood when recording.
I have 3-4 Strats that I've put noiseless pickups in. It's so nice to hit a chord, either distorted or clean, with or without reverb/delay/chorus/etc, and hear it fade to silence, as opposed to a swarm of BZZZZZ bees.

One more thing that I though of: A new nut. Specifically a Graphtech TUSQ pre-slotted nut. If your tuning is unstable, and you're putting the strings on correctly, the nut is probably the problem. A Graphtech TUSQ nut you can do yourself, it's cheap, and will almost 100% get rid of the tuning problems. There are many Youtube videos (Stew Mac has a good one, and it's SHORT). Basically, all you need to replace the nut is a sheet of sandpaper.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 10:38 am    
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ajm wrote:
I have never seen the point of a Bigsby. If you want/need a trem guitar, get a Strat

Sage advice.
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 10:53 am    
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I agree with you all. No mods to the Tele. (Though the body is routed out for a middle pickup). The Strat I AM upgrading. 3 new single coil Seymour Duncans. The Fender pickups (it had a humbucker at the bridge) really sucked. I could never get any kind of decent tone out of it no matter what I did.

One thing that has struck me, not just on this thread, but on others as well: I have never (knock knock knock knock on wood) had a guitar buzz/hum issue with either the Strat or the Tele. My Blues Deluxe is extremely quiet. My JC-120 on the other hand has the "Roland hiss" that we all know and love, but I use that mostly for my keyboard and bass, so it's not really a problem (I can gate out the noise when I record.)

Thank you all for the advice. And saving me a boatload of $$$ Very Happy
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D Schubert

 

From:
Columbia, MO, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 1:57 pm    
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If it sounds and plays the way you like it, leave it alone. If you want to change something, there is a whole universe of aftermarket parts for appearance and performance. I've swapped out pickups, pick guards, bridge saddles, pots, capacitors, necks, tuners, and knobs for years. If i didn't like the end result, I knew could always put it back the way it was before. Kinda like working on a project car, but cheaper.

Modifications that I've been particularly happy with: 50's vintage-style pickups of the Broadcaster/Esquire variety, compensated bridge saddles, multiple pick guards that I can change between gigs. Redd Volkaert says that if you change pick guards every six weeks, everybody will think you're a millionaire. Smile
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 3:31 pm    
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That's what I plan to do with the Strat. Load up the original pick guard the the parts I've replaced. I have new pots and caps that I will probably use in the upgrade. That way I can always go back to original. Plus it will add to the sale value if I decide to let it go. The Strat has never been my fave, so, whatever.

The Tele is a different story. I loved that guitar right out of the box! Sweeter than honey and nasty as a badger. Why I thought I could make it any better, in retrospect, is totally beyond me. But, hey, it doesn't suck to get smacked down when you have a crazy idea. That's why I like this forum. Without good ideas and feedback, who knows. It's like having a friend take your keys after one too many tequilas Mr. Green
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Last edited by Don Downes on 13 Nov 2021 3:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 3:37 pm    
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Quote:
Redd Volkaert says that if you change pick guards every six weeks, everybody will think you're a millionaire


My wife, Robin, makes custom pick guards. The one in the picture is one she did for me recently. It looks like tortoise shell, but it's far deeper in color. This pic doesn't do it justice. She's thinking of expanding. Robin just did one for a friend of mine, and he loves it. Came out really really nice.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 6:46 pm    
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You can buy a Vibramate mounting system for a B5 or a B5 'F' logo Bigsby mounting on a Tele. Comes with a replacement bridge. The Vibramate plate fits grooves in the bridge and bolts to the endpin.

No mods necessary to the guitar and if you get tired of it or don't like it, you can remove it and restore it to it's original state. No mess, no fuss.

Many players put them on Teles. All the way up to Custom Shop guitars.

I like Bigsbys and put them on all my guitars. I don't notice any big differences, if any, in the tone.
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ajm

 

From:
Los Angeles
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2021 10:51 pm    
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Here's a tip if you want to try different pickups/pots/etc.
This applies to Strat type guitars, where almost everything is physically mounted on one assembly (the pickguard).

Build up an assembly complete.
This would be the pick guard, pickups, pots, switch, and anything else that basically mounts to the pickguard.

Then, when assembling the guitar, DO NOT solder the following wires together:
1) Ground wire to bridge/strings.
Ground wire to output jack.
Ground wire to pickguard assembly.

Instead, find an appropriate size of wire nut like is used in house electrical wiring.
Use that to connect these three connections together.

2) Do the same for the signal wire to the output jack, and the signal wire to the pickguard assembly.

If you ever want to try different pickups, just build up another complete assembly.
Swapping configurations is much easier.
In addition, working on the assembly is much easier since you don't need to leave it attached to the guitar.


Last edited by ajm on 25 Nov 2021 5:56 am; edited 1 time in total
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D Schubert

 

From:
Columbia, MO, USA
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2021 6:53 am    
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There are a lot of Telecaster pickup and wiring variations that you almost have to try to hear them. Four-way switching, series vs parallel wiring, tapped pickups, blend controls, different values for potentiometers and capacitors, adding resistors to reduce treble bleed.....and swapping out the pickups themselves. And mechanical stuff: For the neck pickup, is it screwed into the wood or suspended from the pick guard? Do you like the bright sound of titanium saddles, or the warmer sound of brass? Do you need to change the neck angle with a precise angled shim (Stew-Mac) to make the guitar more playable? None of these changes are visible from six feet away, but have a significant effect.
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Jim Kennedy

 

From:
Brentwood California, USA
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2021 7:11 am    
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I play a 75 Tele with Texas special pups. Great sounding an playing guitar. It was so bright I put graphite nut and bridge on it. I also put in a 4 way switch, sometimes referred to as the "Merle mod." Apparently Merle Haggard used this mod. The standard three way puts the pups in series in the middle position. With the 4 way mod the pups are in parallel, and work more like a humbucker. It gives a humbuker sounding option if you need it. It will definitely kill the noise that plagues many bars. I bought mine as a drop in kit 20 years ago, I think from all parts.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2021 1:01 am    
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I can't really tell from the photo but it appears that Tele at the top has a smooth 3 Saddle bridge system. Bigsby systems do not LIKE the standard smooth 3 saddle systems and prefer grooved saddles or separate saddles for each string. When I added Bigsby's to my Tele years back I changed the bridges to Jazzmaster style, or grooved, which is also found on many of Fenders Tele offerings that had factory Bigsby's .

That being said, the only modification I would do to any TELE that I liked overall would be to have a Bender installed. Glaser or PW style. The Tele in this thread is a 2018, it is not even remotely close to becoming VINTAGE . Some would argue that installing a BENDER system hurts resale, I would say just the opposite, it adds value.

And this, If I didn't particularly like the guitar, I would not modify it, I would send it packing !

Regarding the Biggby, I personally would pass .
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Dana Blodgett

 

From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2021 4:30 am    
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I wouldn’t change a thing , the more you add to it the heavier it gets. At my age the weight issue is important. I’m assuming it’s an Ash body?
Really nice looking tele btw.
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Karl Paulsen

 

From:
Chicago
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2021 5:34 am    
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Don Downes wrote:
I agree with you all. No mods to the Tele. (Though the body is routed out for a middle pickup).

Sounds like you're good as-is, but if the body is already routed for a middle pickup, there's nothing at all wrong with buying a second guard and wiring in another. There are some famous pickers who made good use of a middle pickup on a tele.

My initial suggestion to leave everything as-is was to avoid any irreversible modifications. As long as you buy a new guard (possibly a new control plate) there is nothing irreversible about a third pickup in your situation.

I'd advise replacing the entire wiring harness and keeping the original separate so you can switch back though.
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Don Downes


From:
New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 25 Nov 2021 9:34 am    
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I've decided to keep the Tele as is. It's just too great guitar to mess with. You know the type, plug it in and fall in love?

So, I'm upgrading my Strat instead Mr. Green I'm replacing ALL the pups. It's an HSS, so I'm dumping the humbucker for a Seymour Duncan SSL-3. I put a SD SSL-5 RwRp in the middle, and a SSL-1 in the neck. New pots, new caps. Robin also made me a kicka*s new pickguard that works amazingly well with the natural finish and the white single coils.

I have the old pups in an updated pickguard, rewired with the old pots and will be a drop in replacement.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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John De Maille


From:
On a Mountain in Upstate Halcottsville, N.Y.
Post  Posted 26 Nov 2021 12:50 pm    
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After reading these posts I must explain the changes I made on my 68' Tele. When I bought it years ago, it was brand new and bone stock. I was heavily impressed by Clarence White and did some alterations to mine. I was pleased with what I'd done and still am. You see, back then they weren't classics, special or vintage, so, whatever we did to them was what we wanted to do. I, quite frankly, don't know what it's worth and don't really care. I'm not selling it anyway! My wife can sell it and use the money to bury me as far as I care.
However, guitars like anything else are personal property and you can do whatever you want to them. It's your choice and your mind frame. Just have fun with them and play them often.
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